Review : Antibalas - Antibalas
PitchforkFew bands have been as indebted to a stylistic and philosophical predecessor as Antibalas are to Fela Kuti. Fewer still have been as capable of doing their predecessor justice-- after all, this is the band that was recruited to give some sonic verisimilitude to the original productions of the musical Fela!. And in repaying the stylistic debt they've owed to the originator of Afrobeat for over a dozen years, the Brooklyn band has spent a handful of albums proving that it's an art form that can not only survive but thrive, artistically and politically, outside the context of 1970s Nigeria. When they put out Who Is This America? in the midst of 2004's turmoil, it was a rhetorical question: This was music that knew the country all too well and demanded some sort of acknowledgement that their deepest suspicions were correct.
On surface terms, the self-titled Antibalas could be pegged to some particular agitated movement in current socio-politics, where matters of class struggle and disenfranchisement are played out in movements that ebb, flow, splinter, get pushed to the background, yet never really go away. But for many people, financial exploitation, misguided law enforcement, and unsatisfying materialism aren't any more prevalent than they were when Liberation Afro Beat Vol. 1 came out-- they're just more visible to people who wouldn't worry about it otherwise. Antibalas have used that inroads for a much-needed type of no-expiration-date protest music: They swap out didactic specificity for sneaky allegory, torn-from-the-headlines trendiness for generations of weight, and the catalytic spark of the freshly-minted young radical for the perseverance of the long-struggling citizen.
The first half of Antibalas is likely what's going to get the most play in that regard: it's here that frontman Amayo calls the most accessible shots as a protest singer, throwing a lot of weight behind a few simple truths. "Dirty Money" feels like it fits in the context of the current Occupy Wall Street sentiment-- the Muppet-y class-structure feud of its video hints at as much-- but the imagery of uselessly sinking coins tossed to a drowning man, as well as a quickly breaking rope of bills failing to keep a man from falling off the ledge of a building, could stand in for any long-running scenario where capital has tried to stand in for empathy and failed miserably. An allegory for the War on Terror, or the War on Drugs, or whatever war on an abstract concept that causes more grief than it prevents, "The Rat Catcher" is a fable about a man who sets up a trap that snares everything but the rats he intends to catch-- a trap that he keeps expanding until it inevitably locks him inside. (Even if he'd succeeded, "When you catch two rats/ Hundred gon' come/ And when you catch 100 /10,000 go follow.") And if the message of "Him Belly No Go Sweet" predates any of us-- a fine house and fine clothes don't make for a fine life-- it's still delivered through a voice that believes old truths can be the most energizing ones....full text
RollingstoneReuniting with producer and former member Gabe Roth, the 12-member collective Antibalas offers a raucous, joyous celebration of Afrobeat on Antibalas, with meandering melodies and tight, precise percussion. Sharp synths poke and prick throughout opener "Dirty Money" as the brass section wails at full force, while "Him Belly No Go Sweet" slows things down slightly with lounge-like keyboard lines, bright horn interjections and free-wheeling vocal runs. But the group explores a gentler sound on "Ibeji," allowing the song's clattering bongos and a quirky, uncluttered guitar lick to ebb and flow along horn blasts and an enthralling, amorphous synth jam in the middle of the track....full text
ThefourohfiveIn the late '00s, a resurgence of afro-beat – through the Gabriel-esque plundering of Vampire Weekend, Dirty Projectors et al – stretched no further than twee incorporations of Highlife guitar styles into hipster indie. Others, such as The Very Best, took a different approach, fusing contemporary sounds from the continent into a new mix of pan-global electro pop. Antibalas went 10 steps beyond, however, their musical M.O. stretching all the way back to the '60s/'70s heyday of the West African style largely wrestled into the world's eye by the late and legendary Fela Kuti.
The multi-legged Brooklyn collective started life around 1998, and have since released several albums of good, faithful and pitch-perfect pastiche through labels like Ninja Tune and Daptone (the group share both members and a raison d'être with The Dap Kings), showing both a clear understanding and a healthy respect for where this stuff comes from while tweaking the sound into the 21st century. Latest album Antibalas sees no drastic change of pace, with the syncopated rhythms, clipped guitar lines and thick horns of Kuti's Africa 70 band honoured loyally through six lengthy tracks of loping afro-beat.
Opener 'Dirty Money', featuring a winding keyboard break from David Axelrod – better known for his work as neo-dub producer Ticklah – snakes through a fluctuating arrangement before frontman Amayo enters to perform a bit of classic call-and-response with his backing singers.
'The Ratcatcher' follows a similar trajectory - a tale of man who will deal with any animal besides the prolific rodent playing out over classic two-part guitar interplay and explosive horns - while 'Ìbèjì' brings a change of pace, slowing the syncopated burst down to walking speed to include a rasping trumpet solo from Jordan McLean....full text
Antibalas Album Reviews
Sweetslyrics Top 20 Artists
- 1. Dirty Money
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